Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Fast, O Spam?

I am amazed at the speed of junk. I am not talking about the amount that accumulates in the basement or attic or on my desk. That no longer amazes me.

I went to open my e-mail, check messages, clear out the spam filter, and go on about my correspondence. I read some e-mails, sent a few off to others, sorted some church business, did a few more things. As I was about to sign out, I decided to go back and check my in-box one more time. To my astonishment, there were another 20 spam messages in the filter.

Why do we need to stay tuned to messages of hope, faith, joy and love, in other words, Good News? Because we are bombarded by bad messages, double-dealing offers, false promises, and other spam, both electronic and otherwise, all the time.

It also helps to have a good filter. On the e-mail as well.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Making Big Decisions 101

So the other day a new opportunity arose. I was asked by the local fire department if I would serve as a volunteer chaplain. Apparently I didn't mess up too badly when I officiated the late Fire Chief's funeral, so they offered me the spot.

I took my time coming to a decision. Important decisions made hastily mean I usually miss something, often something important.

I talked with the stakeholders. I spoke with fire fighters on the department, the chief, assistant chief, a captain or two. I listened to church members. I talked with my wife. I compared notes with the other pastor at our church. I checked in with the clergy support group which meets weekly. And I prayed. Some of these folks have a stake in my ministry, the ministry of the church and the chaplaincy. Two have veto power.

I raised questions for me, the church, and the department to answer before I could move ahead with it.

I checked to see if I was making this decision as a way of avoiding something else, or out of current but temporary emotional needs.

I looked at the challenges and the unknowns about this chaplaincy, the requirements it would place on me, and decided that these were ways in which I could grow as a person and a pastor.

I went back and re-read the Ordained Minister's Code for the United Church of Christ, both as a reminder of what I am about, and to see how it would support such a chaplaincy.

After all of this, I went to the church governing body, and said I would like to pursue this new venture as a part of my ministry here. They voted to support me.

That's not a bad way to make a big decision. I ought to try it more often. Now if I could just pick what I want for lunch.....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quotes from the Blogosphere

"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." -E. B. White

"A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire. " -Thomas Merton

“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn't in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.” -Charles Kuralt

"We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community." -Dorothy Day

(Thanks to The Deacon's Bench for these four gems)

"Any Idiot can face a crisis. It's day to day living that really wears you out." -Anton Chekhov

"To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul." - Simone Weil

"If you can't pray- at least say your prayers." -George Bernanos

(Thanks to Pastor Sarah for these.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Charging into the 20th Century

The other day, I did something I have never done before: pastoral counseling via chat. If you are reading a blog you are probably savvy enough to know that chat is like an on-line conversation, except you are typing to one another from computers.

Just when I thought I understood technology and its uses (good, bad and ugly), along comes an opportunity to help someone explore some important stuff in a whole new way. It lacked the face to face nature of sitting down with someone over coffee. It didn't have the tone of voice cues that a phone call would have. I don't think it will ever replace the other means at hand for communicating with and helping people. It does however remind me that just as scripture must be reinterpreted, the stories retold and re-received by the community of faith, we also need to find ways of keeping up with how people are communicating in order to do so.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

When Someone Says it Better...

Somewhere along the way I ran across this author, Scot McKnight, and his book The Jesus Creed. I will probably post about it soon. I haven't finished it yet. I then found his blog, and have added it to my list of recommended reading. We start at different points, and often end up at different points, but our thoughts often travel parallel paths in interesting and helpful ways (for me, anyway).

In light of the current presidential politics, the great changes each party promises, and the great sameness they threaten if "those other candidates" win, McKnight wrote an excellent statement about what our job is on November 5th, after all the precincts have reported in, and on January 20th, after the inauguration.

In short, our job as people of faith will be the same regardless of the outcome of the election. Our ministry and missions will be helped and hindered (in some ways differently and in some ways the same) by either candidate being elected.

This is not to say I don't have (strong) opinions about who should and who should not lead the country. It just means my answer will be given on a secret ballot, and I encourage you to do the same with your answer.

And then let's get on with the task of loving the world rightside up again.

Friday, September 5, 2008

About That Party....

I just wanted to say a few things about that political party you like to lambast and make fun of.

They love America.

They are sincere in believing that what they are doing is for the good of the country. They may be right, they may be wrong, but they are not insincere.

They truly do believe that leadership matters.

They do things that you think are dirty pool or nasty politics, but they justify them as necessary to play the game. They accuse their opponents of using dirty pool or nasty politics as well.

They believe that a moral and proper government is the best way to run the country.

They want to see American families succeed.

They think this is the greatest country on earth.

They earnestly want to fix the faults they see in how things are done in communities, at the state level, and especially in Washington, DC.

They let their zeal for victory cloud their judgment about what the victory is for at times.

They have made mistakes. They will continue to do so.

They are seeking to appeal to their base and reach out to the middle ground at the same time, which can result in contorted and twisted looking shapes during speeches, and especially when we compare between speeches.

They have contradicted themselves, and will do so again.

In case you missed it, I did not say which party, other than the one you, dear reader, disagree with.* Truth be told, these statements are true of both major political parties.

This is not to say that they are the same, or that your vote doesn't matter.

It does.


There are issues of issues, issues of leadership, of economic, military, and all sorts of other policies which are critical for our country. But let us look past mere partisan rhetoric and discern deeply how we choose to vote.

*I realize that some of you may disagree with both parties, all parties, or politics in general. Resolve yourself to know that I am addressing the majority for whom one party is the next savior of our country, while the other is clearly of the devil. You pick which is which.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cultivating Silence

As we enter the second round of the donkey and elephant shows, and the news, blogs, and conversations fill with who said what, who found out what about whom, and all the other juicy bits of gossip and grist of the political season, I want to take a moment to offers words about cultivating silence.

I think cultivation is the right word. It speaks of gardening, the long and laborious process of making the ground right in preparation for what it is you wish to grow, and then the pruning of what you don't want to grow.

Silence doesn't just happen.

Noise happens. Cars drive by, the cats whine for inexplicable reasons, the phone rings, family and friends and salespeople stop by, not to mention the background noise around us that we don't notice until a power outage and the deafening quiet that follows.

Downtime is no guarantee of silence. I turn on the TV, the computer, the radio. Or I busy myself with something.

Cultivating silence takes work.

And even in the silence, there is this little voice, part John Calvin, part Ethridge Knight, saying, "Man, why aren't you doing something?!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Finding More Good Ones

As I surf the Information Superhighway (which seems to always be a little under construction), I found another good one out there.

How would a former pastor choose a new church?

Found a Good One

Searching through the blogosphere (how's that for a new word?), I found a great, and painful, story here.

Out of the mouths of babes, indeed!

Are We Communicating?

I check the answering machine in the office, the voice-mail on my cell-phone, my church e-mail, the Mrs.' and my shared e-mail, my blog comments, open the mail, read what is interesting, pertinent or eye-catching, file the rest in people's mailboxes or the recycling bin, and after all that I wonder:

With all that we do to check on our communications, how do we have time to really communicate?